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University of Nebraska, Bill Ayers and Academic Freedom – Sensible Takes

William Ayers, Scholar

[ Photo: William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago, compares tattoos with a developing revolutionary. When asked the location of Ayers' tattoo[s], our young comrade replied, lemmie [sic] just tell you this, we both wear red underwear.” ]

George Leef of The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy offers some sober analysis of Bill Ayers’ invitation recall at the University of Nebraska. Now that the dust has settled a bit, what did Leef uncover?

A bunker filled with weapons-grade baloneyium:

“But is this case one of abridging academic freedom? I don’t think so. No one is demanding that Professor Ayers stop saying and writing what he believes. The University of Nebraska’s decision to disinvite him is bad manners, but it no more attacks his academic freedom than if he had never been invited in the first place. Academic freedom does not entail a right to speak wherever you might want to.

This tempest in a teapot does no credit to the University of Nebraska and state political leaders, but neither does it for those who cry that academic freedom is in peril.”

Agreed. Agreed, agreed, agreed.

Erin O’Connor wrote an excellent, short piece on Ayers/academic freedom:

What’s happening to Ayers is intense and certainly unpleasant. But public figures–and Ayers most certainly is that–invite scrutiny, challenge, and criticism. The marketplace of ideas can be a rough place. And we should remember that Ayers does have legal recourse if he is libeled. We should also remember that none of this has anything to do with academic freedom.As long as Ayers’ employer leaves him alone–as long as there is no attempt to investigate or discipline him for his speech, as long as he is left alone to teach and research as he sees fit–his academic freedom is fine.”

Another recent post by O’Connor details the misunderstanding of academic freedom within the academy.

John Silber’s discussion of academic freedom circa 1988 helped me understand what it was all about. Maybe I’ll scan’n'share those pages when this election nonsense dies down.

Boy Guilty of Stalking; Omaha Westside High Fails The Quiz

Today the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld a ruling that a 16-year old student is guilty of misdemeanor stalking for yelling at another student almost 200 times:

According to court documents, the teen identified only as Jeffrey K. yelled at the girl close to 200 times over two months in 2004 at Omaha Westside High School. He shoved a chair directly into her path, causing her to stumble, repeatedly called her a “whore” and threw food at her, yelling “eat some more, fat ass.”

… and where was the discipline? Educators tout “behavioral interventions” [a phrase popular enough to be the title of a journal] designed to deal with “a multitude of dispositions” to create a “safe school environment” where a student can pursue an education without harassment, intimidation or any other artificial obstacle.

I’ve prepared the following test for those educators:

Q: How many times should you allow one student to harass another [physically or verbally] before dealing with the situation effectively?

A. 200
B. 9,384
C. 52
D. 1

We know that Omaha Westside High School chose A – you don’t have to. [Hint: Westside High failed.] Others can e-mail me their answers or leave them in the Comments section.

Disciplining students involves not only dealing efficiently and effectively with the offender, but also focusing primarily on the victim’s [and other students'] rights to a free environment. The issue here is liberty; the victim’s freedom from harassment is more important than the offender’s freedom to behave like a jerk and get away with it over and over again.

Students hardly report harassment of any kind. The onus is on staff to see the offense – and with 200 offenses, there were opportunities to catch at least a few – and involve the administration to handle the situation effectively. That administration also needs to have the resolve to remove the offender from the school environment instead of wringing their hands over the sad exclusion of a miscreant. My guess is that the time for removal came well before incident #173. Maybe even before #100.